Childhood puzzles

Someone gave me one day a box of pictures. They were bad photographs, snaps, mostly taken in an artist studio and representing unfinished garment creations on vintage mannequins.
The person offering me this gift knows that I sometimes need material for my own creations and thought these pictures could be useful at some point.

A rainy and cold Sunday afternoon, I started a little workshop. Inspired by the subject on these images, I started creating my own garment out of these pictures.
I had fun doing this, and ended up with a strange and unique west coat.

While making it, I remembered a story I use to read when I was young.
“Donkey Skin” , from Charles Perrault, is the story of a King who promised his dying wife he would never marry a woman more beautiful than her. Sadly, as the Queen was the most beautiful woman, the King didn’t find any woman that would fulfil his promise, unless his own daughter. Under the pressure of his advisors and his entourage, he finally takes the awful decision to marry her.

The Princess, full of sadness and despair, went to find her Godmother and cried for help. Her Godmother advised her to ask her father for impossible request, as a condition to their union. One of these request in a dress “colour of time”.

As a child, even though the dress is described in the story, I could never visualise how this dress could be.
But today, I understand. What could symbolise the concept of Time better than photography ?
A photograph is literally the capture of a fraction of second, or more, on a piece of paper.

I created this dress from a fairy tale in the form of a west coat, in my bedroom, became a child again and solved one of my childhood puzzle.

If you want to read the end of the story “donkey Skin”, here is the original story.
You can also watch the movie “Donkey Skin”, directed by Jacques Demy and starring Catherine Deneuve.

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The idiot beauty

During the previous month, I have been modelling for some talented photographers and friends of mine. It was mostly fashion shoots. I would like to share my thoughts and feelings about this strange experience.

Modelling is harder than most people think. Holding a pose on high hills is sometimes quite a challenge and following instructions from a photographer is often difficult. I learned a lot from this, as a photographer. It will be very useful in the future when I will be working with models. I now know what they feel.

A strange thing happens when photographing someone. Photographing a model for a fashion shoot is completely different from doing portraits for example. In a portrait shot, the photographer most of the time tries to get the humanity of the subject. The person being photographed needs to give a feeling of who he/she is. In a fashion shoot, the inverse happens. The model has to become someone else, has to act. Humanity is not necessary in a fashion shoot, the model is only wearing the dress as a mannequin would do. The model becomes an object, a false reproduction of reality.

As I am someone quite natural generally, I don’t wear make up and prefer to wear comfortable clothes than stylish garments. During these shoots, I was heavily made up, as customs seem to require in fashion. People around, photographer, assistants, kept saying to me how beautiful I was. When looking at their images, I feel beautiful but as a false beauty. The person on the images is not me. She is an actress wearing a costume. She is beautiful, but in a contrived, almost commercial way.

It made me think about the concept of beauty in society today. Photography is a large peddle of our beauty “clichés”. I recently read an extract of the french book from Sophie Cheval, a French psychologist, called Beautiful otherwise, Ending the tyranny of appearance. She explains that researchers had made an experiment. Four to five participants had to look through thousands of identity pictures and mark them according to their own criteria of beauty. The result is that in 70% of cases, participants were attributing the same mark to the same photograph. This means that our vision of beauty is relatively uniform and transmitted by photography most of the time, through magazines, newspapers, TV and movies. Beauty is not a subjective concept anymore.

Where come from these criteria about beauty ? To understand this, I had to look back in time. In the 16th century for example, in Europe, beauty was all about forms and pale skin. At that time, Europe was poor and people were working in fields, getting sun all day long. The beauty at that moment was in opposition to the lifestyle of most people consisting of misery, illness and hard working. Woman were beautiful in a way because they could afford to eat well and to stay in.

Today, we are living in a society of  stress and abundance. In Europe and North America, most people work in offices and get short holidays. We are in constant contact with tempting food. Beauty today is still in opposite to most people lifestyle. To make it simpler, a beautiful woman is thin and sun tanned, because she is showing by her appearance that she can resist food temptation, can afford to get a lot of free time to take care of herself and earns enough money to go on sunny holidays.

If you want to have look to my friends fashion pictures, here are the links to their blog and website :

Richard

Katerina

Gokhan

Linda

 

I am very proud and happy to invite you all to the final show of the BTEC National Diploma of Photography from Kensington and Chelsea College !

The private view is on the 17th of July 2014 and all photographers will be there to present their work done during this very busy year. It will be a great place to meet emerging photographers and to discover new talents. The show will be on for a week so feel free to pop up and have a look !

Here is the exhibition catalogue.

Don’t know how to get there ? Have a look on this map !

 

Hidden Rivers

My inner child

 

This is a very personal creation symbolising my thoughts about closeness and childhood.

Having a baby is, for most of us, the ultimate point of closeness between two people. But a baby is also for me the symbol of another strong proof of closeness.
Sometimes, when spending time with someone, one self can have a feeling of how this person was when being a child. Being able to communicate with this inner child can offer playful and creative moments, but also gives a understanding of the feelings of each other.

I am constantly in a quest to find my inner child. I found a way to communicate with her, which is through photography and art in general.

Allow yourself to have fun and free yourself up from the adult world.

 

I had the great opportunity to photograph a dress designed by Melissa Buchler, a young and talented fashion designer. The photo-shoot was great, we all had a lot of fun. I also had the chance to work with the photographer Indre Marcinkute who was my model for the day.

 

Romantic fashion

Four Natural Elements

This essay is about four artists I came across while doing some researches. It is not the kind of photography I am usually interested in, but their work is very interesting and I feel like sharing my ideas and thoughts about their ephemeral creations.

I don’t claim the copyright of the images in this post. They all belong to the photographers which the name is specified in the image title.

Andy Goldsworthy was born in Cheshire, England, in 1956 and currently resides in Scotland. He studied at Bradford School of Art and Preston Polytechnic, and has been making art in the environment both rural and urban, since the mid-1970. He is an Andrew D. White Professor at Cornell University. Over the past 25 years, Goldsworthy has gained a significant reputation for both his ephemeral works and his permanent installations that draw out the endemic character of a place. The artist works with natural materials, such as leaves, sand, ice and stone that often originate from the local site. He said, when talking about his work : “When I touch a rock, I am touching and working the space around it. It is not independent of its surroundings, and the way it sits tells how it came to be there.” His work influenced a whole generation of Land artists.

Richard Long was born in 1945 in Bristol, England. He is a sculptor, photographer and painter. Within a year of his departure from St Martin’s College of Art, Long was closely associated with the emergence of a new art form, Land art, having already produced such works a “A Line Made by Walking” (1967); a photograph of the trail left in the grass by walking back and forth in a straight line. Richard Long made his international reputation during the 1970’s with sculptures made as the result of epic walks, sometimes lasting many days, to remote parts of the world. Guided by a great respect for nature, as for Andy Goldsworthy and for the two following artists, and by the formal structures of basic shapes, especially circles, he never allowed facile exotic connotations to intrude into his work, although some of his sculptures evoked the mysterious connotations of ancient circles and other such monuments.

Richard Greaves was born on the other side of the Atlantic, in Montréal, Canada, in 1952. Since 1989, the self-taught Quebec artist has devoted himself to the creation of a huge architectural environment that is in constant expansion. It is located in Beauce, Quebec. It sprawls out in a forest, on a plot of land that he bought with friends and where he has chosen to live. Cabins he builds appear to be on the verge of collapse. Like houses of cards, they defy the laws of gravity and approach utopia. Celebrating asymmetry and banishing the right angle, they shatter the norms and principles of construction. They tip us into an unreal world and put our senses and our perceptions to the test.

Néle Azevedo is a visual artist, born in 1950 in Brazil. She works with video, installation and urban interventions, but she is best known for her “Melting Men” interventions that she stages in cities across the globe. She carves thousands of small figures and places them on city’s monument where audience congregate to watch them melt. The installation is a critical reading of the monument in the contemporary cities. In a few-minute action, the official canons of the monument are inverted : in the place of the hero, the anonym; in the place of the solidity of the stone, the ephemeral process of the ice; in the place of the monument scale, the minimum scale of the perishable bodies. Environmentalists around the world are adopting her work as climate change art. The interventions have become known worldwide as the “Army of Melting Men”.

These four artists construct sculptural forms out of natural elements. Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long use materials they find in the landscape. Richard Long’s circles result for example, from reflecting on desolate places he inhabits over two or three days rambling until the environment determines the forms he wishes to create within it, while Andy Goldsworthy is interested in reconstructing the landscape to enhance its vista. Richard Greaves on the other hand, quite literally constructs architectural monuments out of man-made materials he discovers in the environment, not to enhance the landscape like Goldsworthy or Long, but to subvert it almost as a protest against modernistic tradition. Néle Azevedo is the odd one out for the element she utilizes in her work, although natural, are the ephemeral element of frozen water, sculpted into creations that are then placed into the landscape.

The word installation, common currency these days, is mostly associated with conceptual or other forms of art work “installed” in a gallery or public space. The art of Goldsworthy, Long, Greaves, and Azevedo, are what can be termed site-specific, for their work can only be viewed by visiting the locations where it is installed. To overcome this limitation and bring their work to a wider audience, their installations are photographed in the landscapes and spaces they have been created, and exhibited in private and public galleries. However, the meaning of their work reproduced in photographic form subtracts the essence of place, and without the spatial surroundings which either inspired or motivated them to choose the locations they are set in, removes the viewer of images from the natural substances they are made from, including meteorological elements of wind, rain, sunlight and heat, or the opportunity of experiencing them in the three dimensional forms they have been created in. Deprived of the visceral experience of Goldsworthy, Long, Greaves, and Azevedo’s art, their work depicted in photographs and “installed” in galleries, could in itself be a form of subverting the art world’s commercial market place for their work cannot be sold unless in print form. Setting these questions, and ensuing limitations aside, these four artists could be described as performance artists, except instead of observing them perform live as they create, deconstruct, reconstruct, subvert architecture, or place ice sculptures in the landscape, we can only witness their performances after the event. We are left to view the aftermath of their creative performances in the (forensic) proof of photographs, unless fortunate enough to stumble across them at work in situ, and distil what these four artist’s are attempting to convey to us. Magic, mystery, folklore, fairy tales – Greaves’s tumbling architecture is reminiscent of Grimm’s – ancient rites and rituals, novel landscape gardening? All these components can be read into their work, and much more, but what is prevalent and overriding the superficial interpretations which could easily be placed at the feet of Goldsworthy, Long, Greaves, and Azevedo, is the primal urge to either make sense of the natural landscapes we find ourselves inhabiting by transcending it into aesthetic shapes and forms, or like Greaves, building on it, or bearing gifts such as Azevedo’s ice sculptures which, after time, melt and nourish the earth with her creations. Fundamentally, the photographic prints of each artist’s work displayed for us to wonder over, captures the essence embodied in all of us, to leave human traces in our ever shifting and changing world.

The copyright to these images belongs to the photographer or artist and/or the artist’s representative, agent or publisher. This work is expressly not of a commercial nature and where possible, each image has been credited with the artist/photographers name, image title and date. The images are shown for illustrative purposes only and to accompany text. I claim no ownership or rights to the images shown and a full bibliography to the image sources is to be found in the catalogue.

Sources :

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/index2.html

http://neleazevedo.com.br/

http://www.artbrut.ch/en/21017/3/past-exhibitions/richard-greaves–anarchitect

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/long-a-line-made-by-walking-p07149

http://www.richardlong.org/

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/press/2004/andy-goldsworthy/andy-goldsworthy-bio.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/andy-goldsworthy-art-in-a-natural-environment/8230.html

Erwin Blumenfeld

Erwin Blumenfeld‘s work is a constant source of inspiration in my personal work. He is a highly creative and talented photographer. I have seen an exhibition of his work in Paris, during the Paris Photo show, at the Jeu de Paume. I discovered there all the facets of his photographic career and I felt like writing a bit about him. Hope you enjoy !

I do not claim the copyright of the images in this post. These images belong exclusively to Erwin Blumenfeld.

Erwin Blumenfeld was a photographer famous for his fashion photography. His images have been published all around the world. People start today being interested in his personal work, which contains drawings and collages, experiments, portraits and complex self portraits.

Blmenfeld was born in a Jewish family in Berlin in 1897. He started photography when receiving a camera as a gift in 1907. In 1913, his father died and he had to stop studying to help his family. He started an apprenticeship in the women’s garment trade, which is probably going to influence his later pictures. In 1915, he met the artist George Grosz. They will stay friends for life. In 1918, they both took part of the Dada movement. Blemenfeld made collages, drawings and wrote poetry.

In 1918, after the war, he went to Holland to meet his fiancé and tried different way of earning money as an art seller, novel writer and finally opened a leather goods business in Amsterdam in 1922. In 1932, when moving his premises, he discovered an operational darkroom. He started taking pictures of his customers and his friends to make a bit of money. He also kept working on his personal work by taking portraits and nudes of women, experimenting with light, shadows and processes, clearly influenced by Man Ray and other photographers from the Surrealism movement, and started thinking about going to live in Paris.

In 1936, he arrived in Paris with his wife and his two children, and decided to become a professional photographer. He set up a studio and started doing some advertising and photographed Parisian artists. In 1938, he met Cecil Beaton, who helped him to secure a contract with Vogue France. For the 50th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, he takes his famous photograph of Lisa Fonssagrive wearing a dress by Lucien Lelong.

In 1941, Blumenfeld left Paris for New York to escape the war. There, his career started to take a much bigger extent. When arriving, he worked immediately for Harper’s Bazaar and got his own studio in 1943.  He soon became the most famous fashion photographer of that time. His experiments with lights, shadows, colours and processes, but also his in depth thoughts about psychology in portraiture and his ability to set up scenaris in his pictures were a great advantage. His famous Vogue cover was published in 1950 and is still used today on design products. He photographed actors, singers, aristocrats and launched the career of some famous top models. In 1948, his work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1955, he stopped his contract with Vogue and worked on advertising. He also realised a few short movies and kept working on his personal work.

Blumenfeld died of a heart attack in 1969 in Roma. He is known today mostly for his fashion photography, but his personal work reveals much more of his psychology and his research of his own identity.